MILFORD — With $4,250 in hand, the student members of the Milford Rotary Club’s Interact program have some hard decisions to make about which organizations to share the money with.
There are nearly 75 students from Milford, Souhegan and Wilton-Lyndeborough high schools who participate in Interact, a community service program for high schools created by Rotary, according to adviser Judy Zaino, a teacher at Milford High School. Each year, the sophomores, juniors and seniors volunteer at events, including the annual Rotary Christmas tree sale, pancake breakfasts and other community happenings, said Steve Sareault, a member of Rotary who helps organize the Interact program. But it’s at the Milford Pumpkin Festival that the kids rake in the big bucks.
“At the pumpkin festival, the Rotarians run a chuck wagon and cook burgers and hot dogs, but the kids serve all the food and help us with clean up,” Sareault said. “In return, we give them all the money we raise and they, as a group, are going to decide how to distribute it.”
In the past, the students have donated to SHARE, a community outreach program in Milford; Gameen Bank, which gives microloans to help fund entrepreneurs around the world; Doctors without Borders and Marguerite’s Place, a shelter in Nashua.
“It’s so fun deciding what we get to put the money toward,” said Ryane Sullivan, 17, a senior at Wilton-Lyndeborough High School who has been a member of the club for three years.
Sullivan said she likes the idea that kids in New Hampshire are helping people internationally, though she said she likes to help local organizations as well.
But it’s the chaos and excitement of the pumpkin festival she looks forward to every year.
“I like serving people and interacting with them,” said Sullivan, who plays softball and is interning at a beauty salon. “And I like to do community service projects.”
Zaino said that Sullivan is the force behind keeping the Wilton-Lyndeborough students involved in Interact and has drawn new people to the club.
“She stepped up, was faithful, and kept building it,” Zaino said. “She’s really an impressive young woman.”
The students meet at their respective high schools once a month, and then come together with the kids from the other schools once a month as well. It’s not easy to get all 75 of them to each meeting, however.
“The same kids who are attracted to Interact are also attracted to other very good things,” including sports, other clubs and extracurricular activities,” said Zaino. “But when they have the opportunity to volunteer because the schedule is flexible, it’s all hands on deck.”
On Thursday, the students received the check from members of the Milford Rotary, but where the money will go has yet to be decided, said Sareault.